The Sex Workers Speak Out project gives sex workers the chance to speak out about sex work and decent work; and sex work, sexual and reproductive health & rights (SRHR) and bodily autonomy.
The commitments made during the Generation Equality Forums are not easily accessible, and it would be problematic for the sex worker community to monitor and hold commitment makers accountable in 2021. Sex workers have spoken up outside of the GEFs, but had few opportunities to speak out during them.
Each video has English subtitles with the plain text below. To enable subtitles, play the video and click 'CC'. Where subtitles are available in more than one language, you can select the language you'd like to read by clicking on the icon that looks like a cog and selecting the correct language. You can also use the Google Translate function at the top of the page to translate the text below each video into more languages from around the world.
This work has been supported by the Count Me In! Consortium and the Robert Carr Fund.
Greetings! My name is Charmaine Dube and I am from the Zimbabwe Sex Workers Alliance. Zimbabwe is one of 103 countries worldwide in which sex work is criminalised and this leaves us unprotected by the law and exposed to a lot of human rights violations. As sex workers, decriminalisation of sex work means us having improved working and living conditions. As the Zimbabwe sex workers we call for the removal of all laws that directly or indirectly criminalise sex work as this is the first step in ensuring we are protected and our dignity is upheld. Decriminalising sex work and sex workers will ensure that sex workers enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms. Decriminalisation of sex work will help improve our living and working conditions as sex workers. #RecognizeSexWorkNow #SexWorkIsWork
I thank you …
Hi my name is Kali, I am a sex worker. I really believe that if we saw sex work as "decent work" or just work, we would face a lot less violence in our community. The word decent is even morally loaded, who gets to decide what is good or bad, or what's moral or immoral? Often sex work has a lot of moral judgements attached to it from the outside world and that in turn creates violence towards us and stigmatisation. If we could see sex work as basically just a service and nothing more than that, I think that we would face a lot less violence. When we go to the hairdresser, it's just a service, right? it's not a good or bad thing, it's just a service. If we could see sex work in the same way, I really believe that we could destigmatise our jobs and then in turn face less violence in our interpersonal relationships whether that be with our family, friends or intimate partners.
In Nepal, the law does not give legality for the sex work profession. Because of this, transgender sex workers are being caught, arrested and charged for public offence acts. So, what I want to say is, there should be law that does not criminalise the sex work profession.
My name is Fellona Roberts, I am a advocate for sex workers in Suriname. Within the organisation SUCOS. Some of the barriers sex workers are facing is discrimination and lack of security by law enforcement officers. What need to be change to remove the barriers? Some policies to be implemented to decriminalise sex work.
Hi, I'm Ceyenne Doroshow, founder of GLITS Inc. This is about the disparities between high-end sex work and decent sex work and what is considered decent sex work. While stripping and high end sex workers are considered to be “decent”. When we all know sex work is sex work. There are no disparities, there are no differences. These things need to be broken. We need to stop prioritising which sex work is good and what is not.
Hello, my name’s Manow or Now. I’m 53 years old from Thailand. I work from Rachdamnoen Road in Bangkok. I am a freelance worker, a sex worker. Sex work not a disgusting job. It depends on how different people view it. Personally, I decided to do sex work because it made my life better than ever before. Besides I have the right to choose the work I do and I don’t cause trouble for anyone else. It’s about two people talking together, agreeing and ending with happiness in my job.
My name is Bongekile Ntshangase, I am sex worker from the kingdom of eSwatini and I am 32 years old.Some barriers that we face as sex workers is that some sex workers are educated but cannot access scholarship privileges. These days there are social welfare outreach workers that register HIV positive people and the unemployed in communities for food packages, which we are not registered or considered for as sex workers. There is still stigma in communities we are not free to participate in activities like going to church and we also face stigma and discrimination from police officers that we are afraid to report our cases where clients are violent to us or do not pay us. As I end, Sex work is work.
When we talk about sex work, transgender women have almost no choice. If you have documents from your past life in your hands, then problems start everywhere - from buying cigarettes to finding and renting housing, and it is not possible to get a job in Russia when your actual gender does not correspond to what is written in the documents. Families refuse transgender women, relatives and relatives turn away, society does not accept them - so we become even more narrow.
Sex work is a salvation for us. Sex work gives us a stable income, a roof over our heads. Sex work helps us to recognize and accept our body, to love ourselves. That's why I want to encourage everyone: "Accept that Sex work is Work!"
Hi, how are you? I'm Jacob Casaverde, I'm from the organisation Miluska Vida y Dignidad, I'm a sex worker, not because I do this, I do this, because in the first place, with this I can pay for my studies for this economic life, since in a normal job I don't because it does not have financial support. I would like to have a law where sex workers protect us, where people are not thinking that we are criminals. Society looks at us like that just because we are sex workers in my case, for example, in the case of many colleagues. I have also heard that because they are sex workers, they have to change society's thinking, which also I suggest it is to sensitise society that there is a law as you have already repeated that there is a law to sensitise people not also to be in solidarity with us. Also more sex workers are self-employed and are not forced to do things that we are not obliged to do. We do what we like. I like my job. I like it, I love it, I enjoy it. I feel happy because the clients are also happy. When they come they come with stressed, they come with super problems and here for example when this stress just goes away. That is what I like the most about my job. Well that it would be all, thanks.
If sex work were seen as decent work and treated as decent work then I would not have to worry about my clients stalking, or murdering or raping me or abusing me, or robbing me at higher rates than almost any other industry. And if those things did happen then I would not be as afraid of going to the police because I would not be scared that they would arrest me for being a sex worker because if it were decent work it would not be criminalised. I would be able to apply for jobs with sex work on my resume and get more calls back than I do now because they wouldn't look at me any differently and they would value the skill sets that I got while working in the industry. I wouldn't be worried about being kicked out of school because they found out that I'm a sex worker, and I wouldn't be worried about not being approved for housing or of losing my housing because the landlords and property managers found out about my job as a sex worker.
Good Morning Everyone. My name is Simangele Dlamini am 32 years old and I am a sex worker from the Kingdom of Eswatini. If sex work in the country was legalised or seen as decent we would be not be facing abuse as sex workers like the violence we face from clients, sometimes being picked up by a client that will not pay you, sometimes being picked up by police to rape us and not pay us and also police brutality. All the streets of trade that we use should have policemen guarding us on them against abusive and violent clients. And we would also have brothels where we can assemble as sex workers and we are picked up from there by clients so that we can be able to register and take pictures of the client and vehicles picking up the sex workers with all necessary information that will help track the client and the sex worker in cases where they are not returned to the central place in time. Thank you.
Wendy, El Salvador
Sex work is decent work for many women, since our families and our children are raised from this work. Discrimination barriers for us do not exist since we have become accustomed to the world, our work is dignified, it is not a sin, sex workers survive from day to day performing our work with great effort. Since for us sex workers this work is worthy, we do not attribute to the changes in thinking about sex work since many people think that this is a vulnerable work that is a sin for sex workers, sex work is worthy to carry the sustenance of our families.
Greetings from the sex workers of Bangladesh. The major barrier for sex workers in Bangladesh is anti-sex workers law and policies. These anti-sex workers law and policy created huge violence, stigma and discrimination against sex workers. Currently, violence, stigma and discrimination are the major challenges for sex workers.
Hello! My name is Eva. I’m convinced that sex work is decent work. Workers of sex industry do their work honestly, bringing joy to their clients and providing for their families. These people should share equal rights with all other citizens. They shouldn’t be subjected to discrimination and violence. In my country sex work is criminalised, the rights of sex workers are frequently violated by the police. Workers of sex industry are often denied healthcare and justice. I’m convinced that the most urgent measure the government should take to stop this discrimination is to repeal article 6.11 which prescribes liability "for prostitution". Thank you for you time.
My name is Gregory Kata the national coordinator of Zimbabwe Sex Workers Alliance. One barrier that hinders sex work to be recognised as decent work in Zimbabwe are the inequalities and legal impunitive environment that hinder sex work to be recognised as work and people's ability to view sex work without bias. Sex work is unlike many other professions in that most adults have some experience with sex and as a result bring their preconceived notions of what it is to discussions of sex work. The decriminalisation of sex work will help in the conditions in which sex workers operate and also their working conditions. Maybe it's high time that political leadership admit that not talking about issues is not healthy for a nation, sex work is a human rights issue, thus the need of human rights approach to it.Sex work is work. Decriminalise sex work now!!
Although we accept sex work as a profession, unfortunately it is not accepted as a profession in Turkey on the grounds that it is against general morality and the Turkish family structure. This is one of the biggest obstacles to the acceptance of sex work as a profession. In addition, the legislation and existing policies that criminalize sex work are among the biggest obstacles to accepting sex work as a decent work. General houses in Turkey are workplaces where sex work is legal. However, they are closed one by one because they are against the Turkish family structure and general morality. The general houses that continue to work, on the other hand, are experiencing troubled processes due to the situation in Turkey. In Turkish society, where sexuality is not spoken, sex work is also called a sin, shame and prohibition. This reinforces the prejudice in the society. Barriers to the acceptance of sex work as a profession can be removed with education given within the family and at schools.
Ana Cristina, El Salvador
I belong to the sex workers organisation in El Salvador. Now I come to talk about the barriers to sex work being considered decent work. Some barriers that sex workers face are the absence of favorable policies for us such as conservatism, religious fundamentalism and above all the patriarchy that makes sex work not recognised as work in El Salvador. Nor can it be legalised as such, these barriers come with various types of violence and some ways that we consider to prevent sex work from not being considered work is to fight for a policy that legitimises sex work as work.
According to me, we see sex work as decent work because of the freedom we get from it. I get decision making power from it, and I am able to decide what to do with my own money. I can decide where to spend my money, how to maintain my property, how much money to send home, how to handle my partner. The power and freedom that I have, I get from sex work and I openly say that I am a sex worker. Along with this, I also say that it is very important for us to form collectives because we first become friends, then family. We are able to share our joys and issues with each other. We fight as well, but we stay together and trust and love each other. Collectivisation is important because people can move ahead and fight for their rights.
Good afternoon.One of the obstacles to respecting bodily autonomy is that most medical staff are unfriendly to us in the sex worker community, and we hear and see even more negativity if we have overlapping identities, such as me being a sex worker and a queer person. This leads to us stigmatising ourselves even more and not going to health services. What needs to change? First of all we need to change doctors' attitudes towards sex workers regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, Secondly, organisations working with sex workers need to work with the community to reduce internal stigma.
How would sex work being seen as decent work make your work safer and protect you?
If our work can be valued, the police and clients will stop assaulting us, raping us, and stealing our money. We urge the authority to implement laws that can protect us.
Many women, men and transgender people still do sex work in Nepal, but Nepal's law criminalises sex work. The state still does not consider sex work as work. As a result, sex workers have been deprived of the fundamental rights and entitlements guaranteed by the state. Therefore, in Nepal, first of all, sex work should be decriminalised.
Laura Libertad, Bolivia
How are you, my name is Laura Libertad. I am from this great country Bolivia. I am a transsexual woman, a Quechua identity sex worker. I believe that patriarchal structures, colonialist and sexist structures, have made sex work not so autonomous, because they have been denying sexual and gender diversities. Just as they have made us racist and classist; and now fascists. We are against these questions of denying the other with their sexual and gender diversities; We are against trafficking and we say no to pimping and sexual exploitation. I invite you to share with me, say no to racism, say no to classism. I am Laura Libertad and I send you a big greeting from the city of El Alto, in the Plurinational State of Bolivia. I thank you.
One of the barriers for sex work being seen as decent work, like every other in our society is the mentality of people and the patriarchal upbringing. The rule of patriarchy in the 21st century is a big obstacle, but with enactment of legislative, i.e. decriminalisation of sex work, society would see us and our profession differently. We all know that everything under legal framework is more acceptable in society, so with regulation of sex work, it will probably be seen as a decent work.
Much as bodily autonomy is about the right to make informed choices on one’s body, the current unfavourable laws and policies in Uganda and other countries at large including various myths and misconceptions in relation to sex work have hindered sex workers’ access to comprehensive SRHR services. Also the cultural and religious beliefs and attitudes towards sex workers have created barriers to sex workers’ bodily autonomy not being respected including lots of other inequalities especially in regards to access to SRHR services. However, what needs to be changed to break the barriers is ensuring that the unfavourable laws and policies in Uganda and other countries are fully aligned with the international human rights standards in order to deliver obligations to meet the SRHR needs of their citizens regardless of their different identities. Sex workers should further be meaningfully involved in the designing and implementation of SRHR programmes that are tailored to our needs.
Speaker 1: How could sex work be seen as decent work to make it safer and protect you?
Speaker 2: First of all, decency goes the other way and for sex work to be safe and protected, for this to happen, it must first be decriminalised, recognised and decriminalised. To make it safer and more protected, first of all, the State has to recognise it and decriminalise it, in order to thus have access like any other worker, the right to a retirement, a mutual benefit and everything that this entails when a job is recognised. And this at the same time would allow us to carry out the work calmly and not enable mistreatment, rape, persecution, and murder of sex workers.
I am Kuka Kasyan, a transgender woman and sex worker. As a trans sex worker, I have faced stigma, discrimination and violence by the society. All the sex workers must be accepted and protected. Until now, sex work in Armenia is considered illegal and there are fines for sex work. All the countries must work to decriminalise sex work and eliminate the unfair application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers. I'm proud to be a sex worker. My body is mine, I decide how to use it.
Hello, my name is Amaka Enemuo and I work for Nigerian Sex Workers Association. A sex worker is anyone that exchanges sex with other benefits in order to make a living. It can be financial, material or any other benefit. What do you do to make sure that sex workers are in a safe place? Number 1 is that we need to decriminalise sex work. What I mean by the decriminalisation of sex work is taking out every criminal act that is attached to sex work. For example, in Nigeria, sex work is not criminalised but the people that benefit from the proceeds of sex work. So if you attach this law to our clients, they cannot come again. Sex work is just like every other work.
Hello my name is Musuya and my nickname is Much. I’m 35 years old from Thailand and I work at the bar in Udon Thani for many years. I’m proud of my job because I can take care of my family, my kids and take care of lots of people in my family. Sex work is work and my body is my choice. I decide to do this work because it is just like work, like every job in this world. It's equal of work, you are not just any body, not just about words. Human life is fair for everyone. Everyone has freedom to choose their job. Thank you.
Greetings from Lao. The most important barrier for sex workers in Laos is the criminalisation of sex work. All other barriers are linked with the criminalisation of sex workers. We have high level of violence because of the illegal status of sex workers, everyone including the police can involve with violence against sex workers because everybody knows that there are no consequences after executing violence against sex workers. We have strong stigma and discrimination against sex workers because of the illegal status of sex workers. This stigma and discrimination also leads to violence. In Lao, there was no sex workers organisation before WLIC, also because of strong stigma and discrimination against sex workers. Nobody wants to respect sex workers and nobody supports sex workers, as a result, sex workers were not able to build an organisation. It is most important for Lao to reform the law and policy and decriminalisation of sex work. Until we can change the law and policy, we cannot fix other barriers. We demand decriminalisation of sex work in Laos as soon as possible.
Hello, my name is Marina Avramenko and I am from Russia and I want to answer the question, what obstacle prevents sex work from becoming a calm and safe job.
I think this is primarily due to the fact that sex workers are not given a word, are not allowed to talk about their work, are not allowed to speak for themselves. The fact that sex workers are being deprived of their voice. Anyone speaks for them. The state speaks for them, the radical feminist movement speaks for them, "fighters for morality" can speak for them. Anyone can speak for sex workers, but not the sex workers themselves. When the voice of sex workers is heard, when people understand that sex workers know how to talk, want to talk, and they themselves know how they need to live and how to work, so that everyone feels good, so that no harm comes to anyone, neither to the state, nor to sex workers themselves. On the contrary, only help! Sex workers benefit society, it's obvious.
That's when sex workers will have their own voice and this voice will be audible and they will be given the opportunity to speak freely at all venues, without fear of persecution, without fear of punishment, that's when sex work will become worthy and sex workers will be more protected. I think so.
Her name is Fatou Ndiaye, she is a member of the association And Soppeku, she says that sex work for her is decent work. Although Senegal is a country where the majority is Muslim and the cultural values do not allow sex work, yet it is a poor country and many women find it difficult to provide for their children. She says sex work pays her bills, food and school fees for her children and considers it a decent job for her.
My name is Vanita, and I am from Saheli Sangh, Pune and also a member of NNSW. Sex work is my work. Through sex work, I am able to pay rent for the house I live in, I take care of my kids and their education. It is important that I am able to work in safety - I speak to brothel owners, work with the police and also explain to customers so that everyone's health is protected. To make sure that we are working in safety, please don't discriminate against us, talk to us and try to understand our lives so that we can live in safety together
Rosa Alma, El Salvador
When it comes to bodily autonomy of sex workers, it is meant that they do not have to see it as something bad, but rather see it as work recognising that sex work is work and that it is not a sin, is not something forbidden. That is what refers to when we speak of bodily autonomy of sex workers. What you have to do is change the chip so that they accept that sex work is a job like any other. What is the stigma and discrimination to eliminate this barrier that she recognises, in what sex work is a job and don't be ashamed why you do it?
The barrier we face towards sex work is the law of our country. It does not legalise the practice of sex work. We would have been grateful if the government legalises sex work as a legal form of work. The way it is with everybody else. Surprisingly, our country receive funds for sex work projects yet we’re denied to practice sex work legally. We would have loved if the government makes clarification on laws concerning sex work for our awareness was we conduct sex work activities.
If sex work was seen as decent work, safety in that work would have been something important for society collectively to give me, regardless of what they think about the work, because my work would be just one of several professions we collectively care about of the labour rights to.
I think one of the barriers that prevents people from seeing sex work as decent work is the myth of virginity, we dedicate people without sexual experience a holiness and purity and are culturally concerned with not only preventing people from having sex, but also acquiring knowledge about the existence of sex, and since sex work in its nature is so obviously outside of these principles, sex work becomes an antithesis to purity and holiness.
To remove that barrier, we need to make it more expected that you talk about sex and intimacy, especially with children, young people, and other vulnerable people, so you grow up with the fact that sex is normal, and not dirty, mysterious, or dangerous. Because when sex is an ok thing to talk about everywhere, then it's ok to do, and then it's ok to work with.
My name is Joyce Adhiambo, a faculty member of sex workers academy in Africa (SWAA) also working with Partners for Health Development in Africa as a community researcher on HIV and STIs. While the world is aiming to have decent work for all by 2030, one question that we still ask ourselves is what that will look like for one of the stigmatised professions in the world? Sex work is work. When the world starts seeing sex work in that perspective, as an income generating work and not as criminal activity, vectors of disease nor victims, the world will have created a safe space for sex work protecting sex workers from being violated and discriminated because of the work they do.
Sex work contributes to the economy of a country. Why would sex work be criminalised when the international policy framework says that everyone has a right to choose one’s work and to fair and safe working conditions? One of the barriers of sex work to being seen as decent work is the criminalisation of many aspects of sex work in most of the countries hindering sex work’s access to social protection, rights at work, representation and other considerations of decent work. Sex workers being included and not being side lined is one of the ways that I think could be used to remove the barrier of sex work being seen as decent work. This can mostly be achieved by not discriminating anyone based on the work they do. Thank you!
Sex workers are entitled to live free of discrimination, stigma, and violence. As all people, sex workers rights to life, health, privacy, and bodily autonomy also should not be infringed upon. If sex work is seen as work and decriminalised then the rights of sex workers can be ensured.
Sex work is not harmful but criminalisation and stigma and violence towards sex work makes sex work harmful in situations. Criminalisation of sex work compromises sex workers’ health and safety by driving sex work underground.
Yamilex, Dominican Republic
Hello, my name is Yamilex Martínez, I am a member of the Organization of Sex Workers, Otrasex. What is the barrier to respect for the bodily autonomy of sex workers? First, that we are seen as people, that our bodily autonomy is respected, dignified work, I mean dignified work because we are very violated by the police, they always want to take us off the street and that kind of thing.
If I want to go out on the street I don't have to wait for them to tell me what I can or cannot do, if I decided to be a sex worker, I decided to be on that corner. Also with regard to health, if I go to a health centre it does not necessarily have to be for a gynaecological consultation, I may have another disease, I may have another pain, I may be treated for another issue. So I think that would be one of the barriers we have with bodily autonomy.
Hi I'm Susana. I'm a sex worker I have two points of view. One is that thanks to God I am getting my family forward and giving them education, and the other one is that since they don`t legally recognise this we are experiencing violence and we don't have any rights.
Sex work is one of the oldest professions in the world. The reason why sex work is intertwined with crime is the inadequacy or absence of laws covering sex workers. Conservative laws of patriarchal norms criminalise sex work. The democratic participation of sex workers in law-making should be ensured, and the laws to be drawn up for them should be made by sex workers. The existence of laws made without the opinions of sex workers will continue to stigmatise and criminalise them. Sex work is work. Inclusive, protective and non-stigmatising laws are essential.
Bubbles, New Zealand (Aotearoa)
My name is Bubbles. I am 57 years old. I have been a sex worker in New Zealand for 20 years. I am passionate about my work and I gave up other full time work so that I could do sex work full time. I prefer being a sex worker but I also have a degree in social work. When I told my dad I was doing it full time, he said I had to do it legally and pay tax. I was very lucky, my family were very supportive of me being a sex worker. I like being a sex worker. It allows me to be in control, plus I work from home with one other sex worker. We're allowed to do this because of the law on sex work in New Zealand. Under the law we have lots of rights and this allows me to stand up for myself. I've never had to call the police but I know I can. And if I did, they would take me seriously. I take sex work very seriously and I want to see the world where society does too.
Memory, South Africa
Good morning, everyone. My name is Memory Mlambo. I’m representing South Africa. I am a Sex Worker in South Africa. So, today we are talking about sex [work] barriers in South Africa; why sex work is not recognised as decent work. Why sex work is not recognised as decent work in South Africa is because sex work is not decriminalised in South Africa. So, we are arguing if the government can decriminalise sex work because it’s not easy at all for us. We are not even being protected by anyone. Even police always harass us. Especially us immigrant sex workers, it’s not easy for us. If police arrest us, they charge us with two counts: one of not having proper documentation in South Africa and the other for doing sex work in South Africa. Of which, we couldn’t go back home to go and fix our papers because of COVID. Also, we are not able to vaccinate because we do not have proper documentation. So, we want government to decriminalise sex work in South Africa NOW.
Soranyi, Dominican Republic
Hi, I'm Soranyi Martínez, I'm a sex worker and I belong to the Organisation of Sex Workers. What is the barrier to decent sex work? Because people see the word "decent" from a moral point of view. Decent means that our work has social security, that our human rights are guaranteed like those of everyone else. And above all, that sex work is recognised as such. What would you do to make sex work safer? Guarantee public policies where our rights are protected and safeguarded. It would be safe if we had a security force to protect us, instead of overpowering us and running us over. It would be safe to have all the requirements of any working person.
Hello, how are you, my name is Eugenia Aravena, I belong to the Latin American PLAPERTS organisation and to the network for the recognition of Argentine sex work. Since 2000 I have been organised for our rights and since 2019 I have promoted a School of political training for workers that allow us to overcome the barriers of access to public policy for considering sexual work not decent. Most of the jobs in the capitalist system have different oppressions and different exploitation, we sex workers fight to achieve labour rights, work social, to come out of that clandestinity and that exploitation, to where they marginalise us, to where they expel us, from the concept of "not decent" work; We believe that political formation is important in order to be heard every day before the state, before world agencies, before the community in general, and overcome those barriers that always leave us in absolute secrecy.
Hi, my name is Tiffanie Simpson and I am an aspiring advocate for sex workers in Barbados. Over the years, I’ve seen sex workers experience discrimination, abuse in health care and protection by the law. I am even aware of instances whereby even the law enforcement officers themselves abuse sex workers and because of this sex workers are scared to report matters to the law. Sex workers are mothers, daughters, aunties, even uncles, brothers and sisters, sex workers are human beings and our voices have the right to be heard. Sex work is work.
All punitive laws attached to sex work and criminalisation of soliciting must be abolished. Decriminalisation of sex work and recognition thereof will foster sex workers to fully enjoy their fundamental human rights and also attain and assert their bodily autonomy and integrity to govern their own bodies. Rachel Love Gawases, Namibia, Equal Rights for All Movement.
Hello, my name is Elisa and I am a sex worker from Belize.
How would respect for sex worker’s bodily autonomy make my work safer? By changing the narrative. If there was more respect for women’s rights and bodily autonomy just in general, which would include sex worker’s bodily autonomy, it would be to change the narrative that sex work always comes from a place of survival, to feed kids, to go to school rather than sex work can be something that comes from a place of empowerment where you are searching and exploring or you have come to own your womanhood and have respect for your womanhood and it’s divinity.
That’s what brought me into sex work. It’s about having the power to live my life on my terms. I want to do human rights activism. No job 9 to 5 will allow me to spend the day to help people voice complaints about their human rights. So for me sex work is something I choose to do with my body, I choose my value my price and nobody has the right to tell me I'm not worth it.
Rose, Democratic Republic of Congo
My name is Rose. I am a sex worker in the Democratic Republic of Congo. sex work is to offer her body through the sexual act for his own good and well-being of his family. In this work I have a lot of experience. I had children and they live through these work. the bad experience is that you can find a customer and the customer after the act hit you and leave you without you pay. Because of customs and traditions I do not feel free to work. I ask the government to recognise sex work as work and it helps us to protect us. And for the donors who follow me to make medicines available to protect us before and after the act because we suffer.
Hello good afternoon. Sex work for me is more than dignified, it's how I support my family, how I support myself, it's with him that I live with all respect, respecting others, respecting me. I wish men would become more empowered and not treat us as mere objects because we are not objects, we are women, well-resolved women. Kisses.
My name is Kiran, and I'm a sex worker from the National Network of sex workers, India. Sex work is my work. It is not only work, but it is also decent work because of the fact that I am able to take care of myself, my family, my children and my needs. I am able to dream because of sex work. My body is my right and my capital, and I use my body to do my work, I have the right to my own body.
Stop the stigma and discrimination against sex work. Sex work is work; it provide for my family. Stop the harmful policies aim against sex workers.
The trans women who work as sex workers that we are almost all by social conditions where people have distanced us from other social and cultural spaces being also legitimate the sex work as WORK we are exposed to a constant lack of health. The accompaniment of trans women in the sub-construction of bodies affects these stereotypes that sex work requires in order to become sustainable. For this reason, we are fighting from our organisation Twiggy Fundacion here in Colombia for a GENDER IDENTITY LAW that guarantees us, a construction, a harmonisation, a correct aesthetic accompaniment preserving our lives. It is there, where we insist that the mental and body health of women must be guaranteed by the state, whatever the condition and more in the exercise of sex work.
Bwaggu Mark, Kenya
Decriminalisation or legalising of sex work will provide better working conditions and access to public benefits in addition it will also give sex workers legal protection and the ability to exercise their rights. This include justice and health care services. I believe this will make sex work better work.
Anna, Papua New Guinea
I am a member of Friends Frangipani and I advocate for sex workers’ Human Rights. I was once been abused by police, walking down the street they were hitting us and telling us to take condom. So still today I still have a criminal record as ‘prostitute’. So we are still advocating to decriminalise sex work in Papua New Guinea. Thank you.
My name is Kira and I am a sex worker from Sweden and a member of Red Umbrella Sweden. In Sweden sex work is not seen as decent work. In fact, it’s not seen as work at all. Instead, sex workers are seen as victims without agency who can’t take care of ourselves. Police make “rescue” raids at our workplaces against our own will. If you have children, your custody will be questioned by social services. This has happened to many of my colleagues and it has happened to me. This also leads to a lot of stigma around sex work. We don’t need to be rescued! What we need is the same rights as any other working people.
Hello, my name is Erika Garcia and I belong to the Flor de Azalea Collective. Sex work is a source of work because many of us women have chosen this work to help our children and give them a better education. We are the livelihood of our home. Sex work is work because it generates economy for our home. The fact of doing sex work. It does not give the rest of us the option. Of discriminating, we are women who are subjects of rights. Everyone has the right to earn a living through the work they choose or accept.
Hi, my name is Alicia. I’m a sex worker from British Columbia, Canada. I would like to start by saying that, sex work has been very empowering for me in my life. It’s allowed to me to go to school and get an education. It’s also allowed me to be able to pursue my art, my paintings, which I love. I give love for a living. I don’t think I’m doing anything so terrible, even though there is a lot of stigma around what we do. I can’t share what I do for a living with people, all the transferable skills that I have learned from years of doing this, I cannot put those in a resume … As a result it isolates us, it shames us and erases parts of us and our community. It makes it (SW) unsafe. Thank you.
Hi! I'm Raphaela, trans sex worker, trans woman, and a member of Red Umbrella Athens. I have been a sex worker for many years, but back in my days there was no other option for a trans woman in Greece, sex work was the only way for breadwinning. I didn't really choose this career, if I had a choice, I would have chosen to study, but I didn't have the opportunity to do that at all, because in those years I couldn't stay in any school due to my transgender status. Today of course things are better, but they have not improved to the extent that they are in the rest of Europe, there are still many steps that need to be taken. There is a law that claims I can be legal as a sex worker today, but it is negated by its own provisions, so none of us can really benefit from this law because of the many conflicting provisions it has.
(*sex work in Greece is legal only in brothels, but the vast majority of brothels are illegal, so sex workers in these brothels are also illegal, even if they have a sex working license –which is very difficult and tricky to get. Also trans sex workers are mostly street based sex workers, so this –legal brothel law- doesn’t includes them.)
Sex work is work. For sex work to be seen as a decent work is by stopping stigma and discrimination and putting policy in place to protect sex workers.
Criminalisation of sex work, specifically soliciting, living off earnings of sex work, or maintaining a brothel and lack of inclusive laws and policies are the greatest barrier for sex work to be seen as decent work. Law reform leads to decriminalisation of sex work that ensure sex workers equal protection as service providers by labour law. Decriminalise sex work. Pitti Peter, Namibia, Namibian Sex Workers Alliance.
Greetings from Lao sex workers. Lao sex workers are facing many challenges because the sex workers movement is very new here. Due to strong stigma and discrimination, none of the organizations take the initiative to involve sex workers with the organisation. Before establishing the WLIC, there were no activities to promote, protect and respect the human rights of sex workers. Nobody talks about community empowerment and leadership building from the sex workers community. As a result, the sex workers movement is very new. Also, a strong negative image of sex workers makes it difficult to improve the quality of life of sex workers. Majority of the people in the county never look at sex workers from human viewpoint rather they look at from moral viewpoint. Nobody thinks sex work is work, rather they think sex work is bad work. So, it’s important to change the image of sex workers and need a strong community-led process to establish sex work is decent work.
Hello everybody, my name is Damien. I live in Vienna, Austria and I am a member of Red Edition, which is a migrant sex worker group from Vienna, Austria. How sex work seen as decent work would make my work comfortable, more safe and protect me, I would say in a form when I know that sex work is included in a labour regulations, when I know that I have a social and health care, that I am included in a social dialogue, that I have equal opportunities and not discriminated in any kind of way... And regarding in Austria, the mandatory health check ins that we have. I think these kind of steps would definitely help me out that I feel much more safe and protected as a sex worker.
Hello, I'm Alejandro Aguiar, an activist for the rights of people who perform sex work, I'm from Paraguay, I'm 29 years old and I've been doing sex work for 11 years. I strongly believe that it would improve our quality of life if there is a law that allows us to be seen and treated as formal workers, to remove us from the underground that puts many of us in constant danger, whether in the streets, not being able to report abuses during our work, also protects us from police violence, and clandestinity also inhibits us from being able to choose other work options and sometimes even have access to a better education, it also inhibits us from receiving quality medical care and without discrimination. We need a formal and discrimination-free sex work law.
Madame Kali, Germany
Hello! I am MadameKALI from Berlin and Bielefeld and am a SW myself. And therefore active in an area that lies in a taboo zone. Since for many people sexuality itself is unfortunately, already tainted with fear and shame, it seems almost inconceivable that one can work "normally" in this area. Personally, a complete outing helped me, even if I had to lose a lot of feathers for it. A few petty bourgeois spirits didn't want to have anything to do with "someone like that". But we SW also have a leisure and private life beyond sex work, just like other people! Respect and thus also security for us SW means seeing ourselves as holistic people. People who are specialists in the field of physicality and then share that with quite a few others. Neither my physicality nor my judgement is diminished by this! Showing respect, by the way, also means seeing myself as a full human being beyond the whore stigma and accepting my choice of profession! Yes, there is also money involved here, that is no reason to banish my activity behind outdated sexual morals! Because I can only work in a safe and humane way if my workplace and everything that has to do with it is in the legal area of social acceptance and thus also legal.
Hello. I am Maki, a Japanese sex worker and member of SWASH, an organization led by sex workers. In this area, there are many love hotels* that are often used by delivery health** sex workers. In Japan, sex workers do not have the same rights as other workers by law or other social frameworks. Under the pandemic situation, owners of brothels and love hotels are excluded from receiving government financial aid. Currently, a business owner is in litigation with the government regarding this financial aid exclusion. Moreover, a sex worker was murdered due to her profession in 2021.
I believe that sex work is part of the service industry that provides care and entertainment. It is an important job that has supported my life. However, at work I have suffered from violence and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It makes me realise that society perceives violence and illnesses differently when related to sex work, and I became aware that it is not because of the fate of this work, but a failure of the social system. In order to change society’s perception to make this work recognised as a decent job, that is, a society where sex workers have the right to safety and health, we sex workers must speak up and share with society what we want regarding our work environment and system in our own words. Although the stigma is very strong, I hope that we can safely raise our voices in solidarity.
*love hotel - a established place that is often used for sexual-related activities for a short period of time. **delivery health - a category of sex work where the sex worker commutes to the client in Japan.
My name is Casey. I have been stripping for about six years in the Portland area. I've done sex work for about two years of that. And the topic I'm going to discuss mostly is sex work and decent work. I'll start off by saying that when people see your work as taboo or "underground", they feel a right to disrespect it. And with other industries, when they disrespect your work it can be late payments or bad reviews. When it comes to our work, disrespect means assault and not getting paid at all and general violence from the community. And it's also assuming that my time is just for free; because it's just sex, they give it for free so why shouldn't you? Well because it's what I do for work. Just because your friend helps you move, doesn't mean you don't have to pay a moving company.
I think it would really really effect sex workers and their safety if people saw our work as more respectable or acceptable or part of "normal society". When it comes to sex work, people feel that because I'm putting myself out there like that, that they have a right to my body, and they have a right to my autonomy, and no matter what I do, no matter what job I do, I am still giving my body to that job. And just because mine is more of an aesthetic vs a labour - sometimes, not all the time, I also do some pretty crazy pole tricks and it's very, very hard on my body. Sex work is very hard physically, emotionally and mentally and I give my body and my time just as much as any other job. And if people saw it more like that, I would have to worry less about my safety walking to my car, walking in the back with somebody, or clubs that just don't have cameras in the back, y'know I'd just be a little more safe. Thank you.
Hi everyone. My name is Sherry, and I’m from Singapore. I believe the barriers to sex work being perceived as decent work is to remove the misconception that sex workers are home wreckers. As a sex worker myself, it’s not my intention at all. And I believe, I don’t come in between two couples. I believe it was purely transactional. So (by) removing the misconception of that I’m a home wrecker or come in between you and your partner, would hinders me or would be the barrier to having a decent work; sex work industry. I hope this will help you all to better understand why there is a need for decent sex work industry. Because without it, there will be a lot of abuse and whatnot.
Hello, my name is Katrina Marcillo from the LGBTI sex work group Nuevo Despertar Diverso. The day I started sex work, I didn't know anything but doing it allowed me to learn to love my body, my life. My profession of being a sex worker especially to have economy in my life, sexuality and my body. Sex work empowered me and allowed me to have knowledge and support my fellow sex workers.
Sara, Dominican Republic
Hi, I'm a member of Otrasex, my name is Sara. Let me explain, what is the barrier to do decent sex work? Well, from my point of view, I see it in my case, in my case so far I do sex work and I have it hidden from society, from my family who do not know what I do, but I have to do it for lack of income, for lack of economy and it is the way I have to solve my problems. That's why I see it as a barrier, with the same society that discriminates against you, that judges you. For me it is a normal job, any job. I see it from that point of view.
Stigma is the biggest barrier for you to make sex work better. Because if you don't discuss, if you stigmatise the profession, she can't talk about it, she can't ask for help, she can't seek help, she can't seek health, health services, she can't do anything, because she just thinks about hiding, she just thinks that no one can know about it. You can't be clear in your communication, say what you do, have a specific treatment for it, taking into account your work routine and body part, everything.
My name is Daisy Nakato Namakula a sex worker from Uganda and I work with the Uganda Network of Sex Worker-Led Organisations (UNESO) which is an umbrella body that brings together sex worker-led organisations in their diversities across the county. Despite the unfavourable working environment, I have been able to work and improve my livelihood using different strategies. However, the recognition and acceptance of sex work as work will reduce stigma and discrimination against sex workers, hence, creating a safe working environment. In turn, this will increase the meaningful involvement of sex workers at all levels.
Hi my name is Leonie, I’m a German sex worker living and working in Vienna, Austria. When it comes to the question of bodily autonomy and sex work for me its most important to mention the improvement of knowing, sensing and communicating my boundaries and practicing consent with my clients but also my partners in my private relationships. My knowledge about sexual health increased a lot and I have the overall opinion that sex workers are super aware of STI’s and how to prevent them. That's why I want to point out that in Austria we still have mandatory health check ups including a vaginal swap for STI’s every six weeks. It is mandatory, not voluntarily which is basically a human rights violation. I would love that to change so that the bodily autonomy of sex workers can be respected.
Hello. My name is Nana, I am from Indonesia. I am a sex worker who joined OPSI (Indonesian Social Change Organization). Talk about sex work and body autonomy, in the charter released by the International Planned Parenthood Federation there are 12 rights that must be protected, some of which are included in the form of providing protection to sex workers for bodily autonomy, such us; the right to equality and freedom from discrimination. Obstacles that are often experienced in fulfilling the autonomy of the sex worker's body in Indonesia are: Lack of knowledge, And the social norms established in society. So, what needs to be changed to remove/reduce these barriers? 1. Provide sexual education. 2. Change of perspective. 3. Policy changes. Sex work is work. My body is my business.
Hello! My name is Joana Portilla, I'm 24 years old from Paraguay and I'm a sex worker. In Paraguay, sex work isn't illegal but, is also not legally recognised or regulated, which criminalises us sex workers and exposes us to diverse situations of violence or exploitation even. Decent work is work that is done with dignity, equality, freedom and safety. And that, the Government has to guarantee, recognising our existence and legislating for our individual, labor and human rights.
Sex work is work, that has both its advantages and disadvantages. We as sex workers needs to ensure that we have more of an advantage for us, in order to do that we need to respect ourselves and our work. There are myths that comes with sex work, and we are the ones to correct that, so respecting ourselves and work helps, cause the actions that we portray, that's how we will be treated. I have my own business due to sex work, and most persons refer to me as bosslady, cause they respect me, so if you don't respect sex work you'll never be respected. So what we need to do is be careful, be honest, let sex work be seen as sex work and portray a better you
Mimi, Democratic Republic of Congo
My name is Mimi and I am a sex worker in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sex work is when you use your body to earn money and help the family. At home we didn't have a house but through my work we were able to build our house. The bad experience is when you have worked and the client refuses to pay you or beats you up. I like my job because I can go to work at any time without being disturbed. she State could help us to recognize our work because in Congo we do not recognise sex work as such. Sex work is considered an insult. I would like there to be availability of drugs to protect us before and after the act.
Hi everyone, I'm Ariel from Singapore. What decent work for me is just enjoying the experience as much as the client. And just co-creating the experience together. Having the client leave with such an unforgettable experience, that's decent work. As for bodily autonomy, I really hope that men will start learning to respect the boundary that I've set. And I think, as an industry, we should set the standards where men will learn to respect us. And be you know... ya, just respect us as equals.
Hello everyone, my name is Diabla, I am a sex worker. I have worked in several countries around the world. At the moment I am here in Switzerland, in Geneva, where I feel so safe and I can do my job with a lot of security. I would like other countries to be inspired by the Swiss model. I have compared other countries with Switzerland and the security is 100% safer for sex workers. I send you a kiss and a hug from the Aspasie association in Geneva. Kisses to all of you.
Lillian, Papua New Guinea
In Papua New Guinea, lots of female sex workers have STI and HIV. Number one, because they afraid to go to clinics. Number two, lots of stigma and discrimination in clinics. Therefore we need to improve the quality of services in clinics so female sex workers will seek help.
Hello! I am Cassandra and I am currently at Red Umbrella Athens. I'm from Syria, I'm an immigrant here in Greece, I've been here for a few years, and I'm definitely facing a lot of difficulties as there are a lot of difficulties for sex workers, even though sex work is consider legal in Greece (only in brothels). But even with a sex working license, which is very difficult to get, sex workers still can't work because none of the brothels have an operator certificate so that makes all of us illegal.
Of course it gets even harder if you are both an immigrant and transgender, that really makes it even harder. Truth to be told, the only ideal solution for us is if the law model that exists in New Zealand and Belgium could be adopted here in Greece too. That would be a very good thing.
Hi, I am Wawan from the Indonesian Sex Workers Network, OPSI. I am a male sex worker since 1996. There have been many positive experiences that I have had during my time as a sex worker, especially the experience of life. Being a sex worker is not easy. We met a lot of clients with a wide variety of characters. For me sex workers are a decent job, I can support my extended family from the money I earned as a sex worker. I am facing a lot of barriers working as a male sex worker. This is due to Indonesian culture, whose majority religion is Muslim, and the norms that must be adhered to because of the strong culture in Indonesia, especially for men. Patriarchy culture also affected barriers for me as a male sex worker. For me sex work is a job that provides sexual services to customers. I never sell my body to customers. What I sell is sex services only. This way, I can exercise the right of my body-autonomy to negotiate a type of services that my clients are seeking -and what I am happy to do. I can communicate and I can choose the type of services that I want to provide to them.
As a sex worker, I had to have a bargaining position towards customers, time management was very important to me, so that I could organise myself to do the work as a sex worker. Currently, work as a sex worker in Indonesia is very concerning, the high stigma and discrimination and criminalisation treatment of sex workers is increasing. The ITE (the Indonesia Electronic Information and Transactions law) and pornography laws and some local regulations that do not favour sex workers make it easier for law enforcement officials to criminalise sex workers. Condoms that are still used as evidence at the time of the raids are carried out, trapping from government individuals through online applications is often experienced by sex workers. I and our organisation have advocated by contribute to the development on CEDAW report, and sending a CEDAW report to the United Nations for Human Rights which encourages the government to recognise sex work as a job and that there is decriminalisation and de-discrimination of sex workers
The people who do sex work demand that governments and public authorities recognise sex work as work. We are part of the working class, and we are not asking for anything more than the same rights that people who work have : the access to pension for old age, disabilities when you are sick or due to a work accident, or vacations. They are simply public policies that reduce stigma and discrimination against people who do sex work.
Many times we have problems and blockages by public officials who do not recognise sex work and do not want us to have access to rights; why? Because they see us from a position in which they want to save us from work because they confuse it with sexual slavery. We are not part of sexual slavery, we are not part of sexual exploitation, we are even against sexual exploitation.
What we do is a job like all jobs and we are proud to do it, we are only demanding access to a series of rights that are part of the working class. Let's reduce the stigma because sex work is work.